Why is theological training vital for urban mission?

We are committed to training people for urban mission. A significant part of that training includes practical experience of Gospel ministry but it also includes a lot of “Theology.”

Now, “Theology” at times has had a bad reputation. It can be a bit of a dirty word, especially amongst those who see the urgency of the mission and get frustrated by those who seem to be bogged down in the theory.

Theology is often associated with academia. It is seen as remote, cerebral and out of touch. It has often been linked to liberalism and the denial of Scripture’s authority and the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yet, theology, properly speaking and done properly is the planter and the preacher’s best friend. Indeed, no-one should be preaching without taking time to study some theology. Those seem like strong words, so why do I say them?

Well it would help to describe two things. First of all, what is Theology and secondly what does Theological training include?

  1. Theology is …

…made up of two Greek words Theos (God) + Logos (Word). Theology is to do with words about God, or the study of God.

This is important because it means that we are all Theologians. We all have beliefs about God and how to know him. This is true of every person who claims to be a Christian. It is true of every preacher who claims to speak on behalf of God.

The question is whether or not we have good theology or bad theology.  For example

  1. Do we properly worship God as Trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Or do we treat Jesus as a created angelic being? That’s how you end up with the historical error of Arianism now seen in the beliefs of Jehovah’s Witnesses.
  2. Do we know what salvation is? Do we describe the atonement truthfully as Christ taking our penalty on the Cross bearing our guilt so that we can be justified freely? Or do we see the Cross as just an example? That way leads to legalism, liberalism and aspects of Roman Catholicism,
  3. Do we have a right view The New Creation or do we expect all the good things promised for when Christ returns to happen materially to us now (over-realised eschatology)? That way leads to the Prosperity Gospel.

So, our priority is to make sure that we have good theology. Theology that enables us to know, believe and speak truth about God. We want to be true worshippers who know and love God as he has revealed himself to us.

  1. Good Theological Training is about …

Knowing God through his Word. This means that it will include:

Biblical Studies. We start and finish with Scripture. We believe that God has revealed who he is and his plan of salvation in Scripture. We believe that God’s word is without error, that it is inspired by him and that it is sufficient for us. So, we want to take time to know it well and in detail.  It is worth taking time to learn about how and when the different books of the Bible were written about the literary genres they employ about their messages and themes.  It is also beneficial to get to know the Biblical languages if possible because that encourages a slower, deeper and more detailed exegesis of Scripture. We learn to love God’s Word more and more firstly so that we can know him more and more and then secondly so that we can teach and preach about him more effectively.

Biblical Theology: This is about seeing how Scripture fits together to tell the story of God’s salvation plan. The Bible is on the one hand a library of books with different authors written over many years but it is also one book with a single author telling the most important story.

Systematic Theology: This is also referred to as Doctrine. It’s about summing up, explaining and arguing Scripturally for the important things that we believe.  Systematic Theology includes the following Doctrines:

Revelation – How do we know truth about God, The World around us, Humanity and the future?  We believe that we need Scripture to truly know all these things.

God – Who is he and what is he like. This will include The Trinity, why we can call God Father the Divinity of Christ, who is the Holy Spirit? God’s character and attributes and all the wonderful names for God.

Creation – How and why did God make this world.

Humanity – What does it mean to be made in God’s image. How did sin enter the world? How does sin affect us? We believe that we are all sinners and that in fact we are dead in our sin.

Salvation – What exactly does it mean to say that God has acted in Jesus to save us. This is sometimes referred to as “Soteriology” and will include discussion about the incarnation of Jesus, The Atonement (his sacrificial death), Grace and Justification.

The Church – What is God’s purpose for the Church and what are the things we should be doing together.

Eschatology –  What will happen when Christ returns. What does it mean to believe in a new creation, what are Heaven and Hell?

Church History and Historical Theology We can learn so much from the past. First of all, Church history illustrates God’s providential care for his people. Secondly, we learn from great men and women of faith. We learn about their courage in the face of persecution and their wise insights into Scripture.  We also learn from their mistakes as we observe the occasions when people fell into false teaching.

Pastoral Theology This is where we begin to think about how we apply what we believe to how we live. Under this heading we might talk about things like ethics, pastoral counselling and worship.

Apologetics is all about being able to give a reason for your faith, defend your beliefs and challenge the false beliefs of others.

Missiology reminds us that God has called all of us and commissioned us to go and make disciples. It helps us think about how to cross cultures in order to serve the Gospel whether that’s crossing continents or just the local neighbourhood

  1. How does all this help?

I want to suggest three key ways in which this helps us.  First of all, Theology is really an end in itself. What greater thing is there than seeking to know our wonderful, loving God? Theology is an act of worship. Theology is about applying Psalm 1’s invitation to delight in God’s Word and meditate on it day and night.

Secondly, Theology is about helping us to be better teachers of God’s Word and pastors of God’s people as under shepherds.  We know God’s Word better and so are better equipped to share it with others.

Thirdly, it helps us to spot error and danger. I remember Mike Ovey asking us when you wanted someone to be able to spot a wolf, when it is right on top of you or when it is at a distance. Good theological training helps you to spot danger at a distance and be prepared.

  1. Why is theology important?

Hopefully you have some idea about the answer to that question now. I believe it is important for those who are going to be involved in urban mission because really we are in this for the long haul. Urban ministry is costly, long term and challenging. That’s why I want to see urban pastors and planters thoroughly equipped for that long- haul mission.

If you are interested in training with us find out more via our TrainBC page.